COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M women’s tennis team won the doubles point and got crucial wins from Nazari Urbina and Morgan Frank at the top of the singles lineup, but it wasn’t enough as SMU won in the last match standing to top the Aggies, 4-3, in the NCAA Championship first round match at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The Mustangs (22-5) advance to the second round for the third consecutive year and face
No. 12 seed Florida State Sunday at noon at the Mitchell Tennis Center with a berth in the Round of 16 at stake.
The Aggies, making their 12th straight NCAA, fall in the first round for the third consecutive year and finish the season 15-9.
“About a month ago we made a good change, which is why we were in this situation where we had the chance to host at home,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “We knew this was a tough match. We knew that it was probably the toughest first round in the tournament. (Hosting) is something we did work for, and we can take solace for that later, but right now that is probably not what anybody is thinking. We are very, very disappointed. We felt like we had a shot.”
In the doubles contest, where all three courts had the match-winning play in progress simultaneously, A&M’s 86th-ranked team of Christi Liles and Christi Potgieter finished off the 57th ranked team of Marta Lesniak and Aleksandra Malyarchikova, 8-3, at the No. 1 line.
It was the sixth consecutive win — five of which were against ranked opponents — for the Aggie pair that teamed together for the first time only eight matches ago and finished the season 7-1.
SMU’s Edyta Cieplucha and Heather Steinbauer won the final three games to close out an 8-5 victory against seniors Stephanie Davidson and Frank. A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Urbina then completed the bang-bang-bang finish with an easy 8-1 victory over Shahzoda Hatamova and Ashley Turpin at No. 3 to give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies, who entered the match 14-1 when winning the doubles point, quickly fell behind in singles as SMU won four first sets and had a 5-2 first-set lead on another court.
“I feel like where we messed up was that our backs were up against the wall from the start of the singles,” Kleinecke said. “We gave up too much at the beginning. We started fighting some, but it was too big of a hole especially against a team that we know is as talented as they are.
“Winning the doubles point was key. I knew we had to win the doubles point, and we did that easy and I felt in good shape, but we gave up too much. I don’t think we took them lightly after the doubles. We just didn’t go out with the same intensity in singles that we did in doubles.”
Steinbauer evened the score with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Potgieter at No. 4 singles, and Hatamova gave the Mustangs the lead with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Cuthbertson at No. 5.
Frank then evened the score at 2-2 with a 7-5, 7-6 (13) win against Cieplucha at the No. 2 line. Frank, who had not lost a home match since her sophomore year, overcame a 5-2 deficit to win the first set and took a 5-2 lead in the second. Cieplucha made a comeback of her own in the second set to force the marathon tiebreaker. Cieplucha had fought off five set points and Frank held off three set points before notching the back-and-forth 15-13 tiebreaker win and posting her 21st consecutive home victory.
Urbina, who was coming off the highest ranked victory of her singles career with a straight-set win against 11th-ranked Sona Novakova of Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship, posted another personal best to put A&M up 3-2. Despite losing the first eight games of the match against ninth-ranked and two-time Conference USA Player of the Year Lesniak, the 26th-ranked Urbina came through with a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at the No. 1 line. It snapped a 19-match win streak by Lesniak, who had defeated Urbina in straight sets in the semifinals of the ITA Texas Regionals in October.
“You can’t rely on (Marta) all the time,” SMU coach Lauren Longbotham Meisner said. “It is not fair to her to think that she has to (win). We have really good No. 1 and 2s, but A&M’s No. 1 and 2 are phenomenal. Morgan Frank, I can’t say enough about her just because of her fight and she has a very distinct game style. And Urbina of course is a great competitor.”
“That is a great win for (Urbina) and especially after losing the first eight games, so what a comeback there,” Kleinecke added. “I felt like they were getting a little more tired than we were, and I felt if we could have held on, that was crucial.”
The Aggies were unable to hold the lead as the Mustangs would win the last two matches. Malyarchikova broke Liles to take a 6-5 lead in the first set and went on to win, 7-5, 6-4 at No. 3. Minutes later, Turpin, who transferred to SMU in January 2010 after playing her freshman season and the fall of her sophomore season at A&M, won the decisive point at No. 6. Turpin dropped the first set against Davidson, 6-2, but then won four consecutive games to close out a 6-1 second-set win. Turpin then won the first four games of the third set en route to a 6-2 win.
“(Turpin) was the last court on in three sets at the USA Conference Championships, and it ended up where unfortunately we didn’t end up winning that match,” Meisner said. “I basically told her, ‘you’ve already gone through this; just go ahead and play and don’t worry about it.’ Of course coming back to a school you just transferred from was going to be nerve-wracking. She was nervous the whole week. She just came through. She didn’t let the nerves get to her, and she was confident with her shots. That is probably the best I’ve seen her play this year.”
It was the final match for A&M’s three seniors: Frank, Davidson and team captain Liles.
Frank ends her career as the winningest player in school history with a .765 (91-28) career winning percentage in singles, obliterating the previous record of .728 held by Ashley Hedberg (2001-03). In addition, her 91 wins ranks seventh in the career records and her 89 doubles wins is eighth in the career books.
Davidson ends her career ranked fourth in the A&M all-time career record with 97 doubles victories.
“You give SMU credit for not worrying about the doubles and coming out and taking care of the singles the way they did,” Kleinecke concluded. “It’s just one of those things you have to grow from. We have three seniors leaving us, and we are excited about the people joining us next year. It is going to be a completely different chemistry, and you just keep moving. I’ve done this enough that I know the teams change.”
No. 32 SMU 4, No. 31 Texas A&M 3
NCAA First Round
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. (#26) Nazari Urbina, TAMU def. (#9) Marta Lesniak, SMU, 0-6, 6-3, 6-2
2. (#113) Morgan Frank, TAMU def. Edyta Cieplucha, SMU, 7-5, 7-6 (13)
3. (#124) Aleksandra Malyarchikova, SMU def. Christi Liles, TAMU, 7-5, 6-4
4. Heather Steinbauer, SMU def. Christi Potgieter, TAMU, 6-4, 6-2
5. Shahzoda Hatamova, SMU def. Janelle Cuthbertson, TAMU, 6-1, 6-3
6. Ashley Turpin, SMU def. Stephanie Davidson, TAMU, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. (#86) Liles/Potgieter, TAMU def. (#57) Lesniak/Malyarchikova, SMU, 8-3
2. Cieplucha/Steinbauer, SMU def. Davidson/Frank/, TAMU, 8-5
3. Cuthbertson/Urbina, TAMU def. Hatamova/Turpin, SMU, 8-1
Order of finish: Doubles: 1, 2, 3; Singles: 4, 5, 2, 1, 3, 6
#12 Florida State 4, Southern 0
NCAA First Round
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
May 14, 2011
1. (#31) Katie Rybakova, FSU def. Carlista Mohammed, SU, 6-0, 6-1
2. Francesca Segarelli, FSU vs. Kathryn Curtis, SU, 6-2, 5-0, unfinished
3. (#51) Noemie Scharle, FSU def. Demetria Woods, SU, 6-1, 6-1
4. Ruth Seaborne, FSU def. Lisbeth Castaneda, SU, 6-0, 6-0
5. Federica Suess, FSU vs. Jo’Vonna Gaines, SU, 6-3, 5-1 unfinished
6. Amy Sargeant, FSU vs. Lois Alexis, SU, 6-2, 3-3 unfinished
1. Suess-Scharle, FSU, def. Mohammed-Gaines, SU, 8-4
2. (#51) Segarelli-Seaborne, FSU, def. Curtis-Alexis, SU, 8-2
3. Rybakova-Sargeant, FSU, def. Woods-Castaneda, SU, 8-1
Order of finish: Doubles: 3, 1, 2; Singles: 4, 1, 3